Thursday, 30 June 2016

Me and Mine - June 16

This month I didn’t manage to get the tripod out to take any nice pictures of us as a family and the selfie attempts all made me look rather large of arm. Fortunately there were a few pictures taken this month by others.

On Father’s Day we all went to a Baby Sensory session. M and I watched while all the Daddies and their small offspring banged drums, were tickled by feathers and watched balloons and bubbles. There was a professional photographer there so I took the opportunity to see if we could grab a quick picture. I really love the result.
credit Sophie Oldhamstead Photography
The other pictures of the 4 of us were from an amazing trip we took to Legoland Windsor Resort. We had such an amazing 2 days going on lots of rides and spending time together as a family. I love the official pictures as they aren’t very well posed, but they make me laugh and smile at the memory of our holiday.
official Legoland Windsor picture of a laser shooting game

official Legoland Windsor picture of heartlake city weather reporting

We had a family party in June which was lovely and where I planned to get lots of lovely photographs, unfortunately Little wasn’t in a very happy mood and only wanted to be held by me so I didn’t get to take very many photographs. This lovely shot was taken by my Auntie of me and my sisters.
a black and white picture of 3 sisters posing on a sofa
Add caption
The last big exciting event which happened this month was BML16, you may have heard me say a thing or two about that! There were a lot of quick snaps taken of me and Little on my phone, but this one is my favourite even though it’s not great quality. The lovely lady sitting next to us thought Little was being cute so she quickly grabbed by phone and snapped it (I think it was Swazi, but apologies if I have misremembered).

small baby holding her mother's face and smiling
June has been a great month. It has been really busy with a lot of time with friends and family. Little has been poorly much of the time, but that just meant we spent a lot of time cuddling. I’m not going to complain about the weather or the mass reduction in vegetables and plants in my garden due to slugs. lucky, happy slugs.

Tomorrow I’ll start working on making July great.

I'm linking up this post with Dear Beautiful's Me and Mine Project which encourages people to get in front of the camera with their family. Check out everyone else's pictures on the Linky.
The Me and Mine Project

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

My thoughts on #BML16 - a blogging conference

It was an interesting day which involved me getting poo on my top (downside of baby wearing), screaming in the toilet (they were very narrow and the tissue holder attacked me) and telling Carol Smillie that there was no way I was going to jump on a trampoline (she was promoting DiaryDoll pants). I also spoke to the Johnson's European Head of R&D, made an oiled up man pose for me and ate lots of cake. 

(For anyone who hasn’t been to Britmums Live it is an annual conference for bloggers which combines the opportunity to chat with brands with how to improve your blogging, meeting other bloggers and generally providing inspiration.)

This was my second time at the event and my first time with a baby. I went with Little which meant that I always had someone to talk to and having a baby on my chest was a great ice breaker, but it did mean that I left one of the sessions as she was starting to get noisy. 

So what did I think of my day? Let’s start with the low points:

There were a number of bloggers who I’m not entirely sure why they were there. At an event where a lot of people go on their own most people are open and friendly and will talk to anyone, but there were a number of people who only seemed interested in speaking to and supporting their friends. In the first session which included an ice breaker I sat at a table on my own, 4 ladies joined me at the table, all people who I follow on Twitter. I made several attempts to talk to them, but they didn’t make any effort to talk back even though I was on my own (other than the baby). One of them also held on to the pass the parcel on the final layer so she could win, meaning that I missed out on the prize. It was all a great joke, but it still felt rude that they had joined me at the table, weren’t interested in talking to me and then didn’t even apologise for grabbing a rather nice necklace by Merci Maman.

I was also really disappointed that during the awards not everyone showed the support for the finalists. Yes it was the end of a long day, but everyone in that room should have been clapping for every single name which was read out. 

The new one day format meant that it was a full on and very busy day where you had to choose whether you wanted to miss out on developing your skills, socialising or talking to brands in detail. I remember feeling the same when the format was a day and a half though. There is just too much to cram in to the event however long it is.

So there were some disappointments, but overall I had a fantastic day. Here are 10 great things about the event:

Meeting people that I have only previously met online. There are lots of bloggers that I regularly interact with on Twitter or Instagram, some of them for years. It was lovely to meet some of these lovelies face to face such as Donna, Liska, Sharon and Sarah.

Meeting new people. There are 100s of bloggers at BML each year (about 500 apparently) and there is no way you are going to know everyone who is there. This makes it a great opportunity to meet new people and find new blogs. People I met for the first time include Ann from Rainbows are too beautiful, Clarina from Clarina's Contemplations  and Rachel from Vintage Folly whose youngest daughter was born the same day as mine. Apologies to anyone I have currently forgotten.

Freebies. I’ll admit it I love getting things for free. I also love discovering and playing with new things, if I can do this with no cost to me so much the better (I am more than happy to then buy if they are worth it). I’m not alone in loving freebies and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who waited all of 2.5 seconds before going through the goody bag.

The food. From the birthday cake by Konditor & Cook (my all time favourite cake and brownie makers) to ice cream to cup cakes and biscuits and lunch and pastries and breakfast muffins to tapas to crepes, you could easily eat your way through the day. There was also smoothies, cordial, prosecco, coffee, squash’d, iced latte and spritzers to wash the food down with.

Brands. When I am talking to a brand I want to know about them, what makes them special and what new products they have. I also want to know what they want from bloggers and how we can work together. I really enjoyed chatting with some of the companies especially: Mam, Munchkin, Fellowes, DC Thomson, Bollox, Johnson's, Touchnote, Sultan and Coca-cola who all took time to talk to me in depth. 

Photo opportunities. These included in a tent with the Big Little Tent Festival (after reversing into it minus dignity), with an inflated Clanger, the new Noddy and a super sized Mim mim (from Kate and Mim mim). Oh and with actual people!

The break out sessions. I chose to not attend talks in every session because I wanted to spend more time chatting with people, but I picked up some useful tips in the sessions on Understanding SEO (by the VERY knowledgeable Judith Lewis), How to work smart with PRs and the Instagram session.

The talks. From the moving Keynote session by Anne-Marie Cockburn who tragically lost her 15 year old daughter, to Julie Creffield’s Inspirational talk on big fat stupid goals and the typical blogger over sharing as encouraged by Cherry Healey. The talks by these strong women this year encouraged us to find our voice.

The Blogger’s Keynote. While the majority of the blogger attendees are mum’s and an ever growing Dad contingent the style of post and topics are very different. The Blogger’s keynote each year provides an opportunity to hear examples of some of the most amusing and poignant posts. Awards for bravery should go to Tim of Slouching Towards Thatcham for singing his post and Oana from Mama’s Haven for reading her post on What really happens when you lose a child. Most entertaining for me was the incredibly cute video where Al from The Dad Network was interviewed by his son for the position of stay at home Dad.

The awards. With so many amazing bloggers around and so many people achieving great things through their blogging it is great that there are a number of awards ceremonies which aim to recognise some of the best. The Brilliance in Blogging Awards by BritMums use both voting and judges to decide the best of the best and it was lovely that so many of the winners were shocked and humble at their well deserved achievement. Well done to everyone.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Getting ready for school - Part 3 Advice from other mums

In the last in the series preparing for M to start school I asked some members of friendly Facebook group if any other parents had advice from their experience of their children starting school. Here are my favourites:

Catherine, who is an old hat at first days suggests: 

“Leave at least fine minutes before you think you need to. All you need is for a particularly fascinating worm on the path and your expert parent plans of being early for school are scuppered. “

Take a photo of your child next to the school sign on the first day of each school year. You'll have a lovely collection over the years and be able to compare year on year. “

“Label everything... even pants!”

Lucy of Bambino Goodies says: 

“Pop a little note (or a joke) into their book bag or lunch box - I had a tear-off pad - every day that they can look at if they start to feel sad. “

“Plan something lovely (coffee and cake with a friend, beauty treatment) for yourself after you've dropped them off on the first day to take your mind off it.”

“Don't worry. They'll soon be running in without a backward glance. That's the sad bit. *sob*”
a reception school room with boxes of activities, tables and lots of things on the walls like alphabet and numbers

Chantelle from Mama Mummy Mum advises:

“getting 4 girls out the door on time means organisation is key. Uniform laid out the night before, getting up before the kids to make sure lunches are made (I've been known to forget otherwise) oh and if all else fails yelling hurry up a lot!!”

And finally Louise recommends:

“If they are a little upset, take a lead from the staff. I suspect they'll want you out of the way quickly as that's the fastest way to settle the little one. Allow that to happen and leave quickly.”

“Expect extreme tiredness and hunger at the end of the school day for at least the first term. Take a snack with you when you collect them from school to fend off the "hanger”.”

“Don't ask too many questions and expect a long tale about what they've done all day. It's their equivalent of work and, although we are desperate to know, they think it's pretty boring. Stimulate responses with questions like "Who would you like to have been abducted by aliens today?" "What was your favourite activity today?" and try to keep your questions open or you'll get yes/no answers.”

Part 1 - What do you need to get?
Part 2 - Getting me and my child ready

Water, water everywhere, but how much do you drink?

Every summer I end up with heat stroke a couple of times and I frequently get headaches. I suspect this is due to me finding the taste of water boring and really disliking the flavour of water when I am away from home. I just don't drink enough. Have you noticed tap water tastes differently throughout the UK and very differently abroad? There are even some bottled waters I don't like the taste of.

I don't want to give you the impression that I have a refined palate. I'm fairly sure I wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between a £5 bottle of red and a £50 one. I think I just get used to the same things tasting the same way. It's the reason I normally groan when I see a product label saying "new improved recipe!"

To try and keep me drinking when I'm at home I drink squash, anything else is an expensive habit and can be too high in sugar. Unsurprisingly M has copied this and apart from in her beaker at night she will normally drink squash too.

The Robinsons #EnjoyMoreWater challenge got me thinking: how much do M and I drink each day? I will give M a drink every time she asks for one, but like most 4 year olds she is often so busy playing she forgets basic needs and isn't likely to notice until she is really thirsty.
A 4 year old girl in a Wonderwoman cape and minnie mouse dress standing in front of a yellow and green Little Tikes play house
How much should we be drinking? There doesn’t seem to be a simple answer to that. The amount will vary depending on the temperature, our size and how active we are. The NHS Eat Well guide says to have 6 to 8 glasses a day, but I'm not sure what size a glass is meant to be. Generally advice seems to be drink 2 to 3 litres a day. For children advice is even more mixed and confusing, but logically they should drink less than an adult. As I'm breastfeeding I need to have plenty of water to ensure I have a good supply of milk. When you start feeding your baby and you are wondering whether they are getting enough you are asked: "do they have plenty of wet and dirty nappies?". The same advice seem sensible for hydration in older people too. No I don't mean we should all start wearing nappies, but if we go to the toilet regularly and our wee isn't too concentrated we are probably getting enough (the colour of champagne is apparently about right). 
Pink ikea plastic glass on shelf next to a tall glass glass in front of patio windows
So how much are we drinking? Over the course of 2 weeks M and I tried our best to record how much we drank.
First thing I had to do was measure our glasses. I normally have 300ml in each glass and handily enough my mugs of tea are the same size. M has a smaller cup which I only half fill to prevent too much water damage if it is knocked over so she has about 100ml a time.
Next we recorded each drink we had: M on a colourful chart from Robinsons and me on a far more boring piece of paper.

We didn't worry about what M had at nursery, but the final results showed unsurprisingly I often don't drink enough, especially when out and about. M is having about 6 cups a day, but given how active she is I don't think this is enough.

To try and increase how much M has to drink I left a jug of water available for her as well as the range of Robinsons Squash'd we were sent to try. This meant she could help herself whenever she wanted and have fun choosing the flavour from: Summer Fruits, Apple & Blackcurrant, Lemon & Lime, Passion Fruit & Mango, Citrus and Orange & Peach. When she's running around the garden she now doesn't have to wait for us to make her a drink she can just help herself.
A small red table with 6 Robinsons squash'd bottles, a clear plastic jug of water and a pink cup

M and I have come up with a list of 10 things which are more fun to do with water than drink it as it comes from the tap. We are hoping to complete them all over the summer (some like having a bath may happen more than once):

  • Having a bath
  • Paddling in the sea
  • Splashing about playing washing up
  • Going in a paddling pool
  • Water balloons 
  • Discovering what floats and what sinks
  • Ice painting
  • Jumping in puddless
  • Swimming 
  • Dancing in the rain

This post is an entry for Britmums #EnjoyMoreWater Challenge, sponsored by Robinsons.
Robinsons launched the Enjoying Drinking More Water campaign in January 2016 with the aim to get Brits drinking more. Squash'd are great because each little bottle makes 20 drinks and they can easily fit in your bag to be taken out with you.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Why won't my 4 year old sleep?

I really enjoy the company of my eldest daughter. She is funny, clever, loving and creative. She is full of energy and can be so much fun to be around. The exception to this bedtime.

I hate her bedtime. I end up shouting most nights, I frequently leave the room to calm myself down and I silently beg her to go to sleep. Other nights I actually beg her to go to sleep, but just like shouting, bribes and crying it doesn’t work. Those same traits which make her such a strong, independent and fun person all combine at bedtime to make her a horror. 

“Mummy, hug!” she demands whilst doing headstands on the sofa and kicking me in the face. “Mummy, kiss” she says as she jumps on me. “Lie next to me”, I agree, but rather than go to sleep she wiggles her legs, turns upside down, does puppet shows with her arms, sings songs, tries to crawl under my legs or makes a den with the duvet.

Please poke me in the eye instead of going to sleep
They say that the key to getting your children to bed is a good consistent routine. I suspect “they” have very different children to my eldest. Routines rely on the child in question doing what you ask. Bedtimes are now complicated by having a baby, but before she was on the scene I would pick M up from nursery at 6 (as a working mum I had no choice other than picking her up as late). I would then have an hour to get her home, cook and eat dinner, try and spend some quality time and ideally have a bath before aiming to get her to her room by 7.

From 7 o clock onwards I would spend my time trying to get M to wind down and get ready to switch off. Some days she would be asleep soon after 8, bad nights she finally gave in after 9.30. In between I would get her changed, read her stories, attempt to dim the lights (often refused) and attempt to get her to lie in bed next to me, stop talking, close her eyes and be still. I know once she manages to lie there quietly for 5 minutes she will fall asleep, but instead she will jump up and down complaining “I can’t get to sleep”.

Delaying tactics include needing the toilet, being starving hungry (despite refusing to eat any more food less than an hour before), needing a favourite toy, just one more story, wanting a lullaby, needing more water, another hug. I will tell her that I’m going away until she is ready to sleep, but often she will cling on to me and not let me leave. I’ve even tried those child hypnosis sleep video’s on youtube, M is wide awake at the end.

By the time M is asleep I am lucky to get any time with my partner or by myself before I collapse from exhaustion.

Little girl falling asleep holding her mothers hand
A sleeping child, one of the most beautiful sights there is.
Since the baby has arrived bedtimes have become even more fun. Little is comparatively a good sleeper, but evenings are now spent between two bedrooms trying to meet the needs of both of my daughters. Nearly every night M will wake Little up with her loud playing or her tantrums. This means I have to stop spending time with M further pushing back what time she will give in to sleep. 

A major deterioration in M’s bedtimes recently is the introduction of TV. After many evenings where M would come in the room just as I was getting Little to sleep I discovered the most effective way to get the baby to sleep was to allow M to watch TV. This works wonders in keeping her quiet, but has a negative effect once I turn the TV off. It can take anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour to get Little to sleep. That’s a lot of TV just before bed. It often means M isn’t in her room by 7 either, pushing back her ultimate sleep time.

I have discussed M’s sleep challenges with friends as well as a local attachment parenting group. So many people giving advice (none has worked yet), but there are also a number of other mums like me who dread bedtime. Those of us who have tried everything, but still have children who fight sleep for as long as they can. M was like it as a baby and I suspect she will be the same for years to come. I would love to believe those parents who say that she will be better when she starts school, but I struggle to see how school will tire her much more than the long days she spends at nursery.  She has been going 5 days a week for the last 4 years. Even if it does make her more tired, being tired has never equalled going to sleep earlier or easier, it normally equals hyperactivity and more tantrums.

To all you parents who share my pain just know that I am there for you if you ever need to talk, don't feel alone in your battle. And if you ever find a solution which works please let me know. To everyone else you are welcome to come babysit and get M to bed, you can stand by and offer me a beer/ shot of strong drink every time I manage to leave the room, but please don’t offer advice, I’m confident it won’t work and I’ve probably already tried it. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Getting Ready for school - Part 2 Getting me and my child ready

If you missed it you can read the first part of this blog post here
In this part Lauren from answers my questions on the practical things I need to know and how to prepare emotionally.

What can I do to get M ready for school?

Talk to her about what to expect. School is very structured and there are a lot more children there than she will be used to at nursery, although at our school the Reception classes have their own play area and entrance away from the main school playground which makes it a bit less daunting. Reception is very much about play, but there will also be times where she will need to sit and concentrate for a while - practicing doing that with activities at home might help. At lunchtime, children queue up and get their food and then sit at big tables together. Lunchtimes are staggered a bit and the younger children go first. The midday supervisors will be there to encourage them to eat but they don't help them clean up after themselves - reminding her to wash her face after eating might be useful otherwise you'll be able to tell what's she's had for lunch when you pick her up from school just by looking at her face! At our school the toilets are shared between the two reception classrooms and children have to look after themselves there too, so again, reminding her of good toilet manners might be a bonus. 
Posting on local forums can help you to find other parents with children starting at the same school, and arranging a couple of summer playdates with them can help things feel a bit more familiar once the term starts. 
Do make use of the opportunity for the induction day - visiting the classroom, meeting the teacher and seeing where everything is and then talking about it afterwards will help her to get clear in her mind what is going to happen. 
Also be prepared for her to be very tired for the first term or so. Encourage a good bedtime routine, and eating a larger meal at lunchtime with a snack type tea which will mimic the school routine. My kids regularly fell asleep on the sofa shortly after getting home from school for the first few weeks! 
Also make sure that she knows who she can talk to at school if she needs something is is feeling sad. You will have a home visit from a member of staff before she starts, and it's an opportunity for her to show them what she likes and who she is, and to recognise a familiar adult face when she first arrives at school. 
First Day at school

As a working mum what do you do before/ after school?

Our school runs a breakfast club which starts at 7.45. It doesn't have to be booked, you just turn up and pay on the day. Children are given breakfast and a choice of activities. Generally they like children to have been in school for a week or two so they are settled before they start going to breakfast club, so be prepared for alternative arrangements for the few days. At the moment for our school it costs £3.50. Most schools will have similar arrangements.

There is also an external breakfast club provider, which offers a similar service but from slightly earlier. They will drop children at school using a minibus. They also provide an after school club, between 3.30 and 6pm. Children are picked up via minibus (occasionally they will walk, dependent on how many children are going and their ages). The after school club offers them a hot or cold tea, space to do homework, and various semi-led activities. The school itself does not offer an everyday after school club, although some schools do. 

The school DO offer regular half-termly after school activities for specific areas. These are split by year groups. At the moment, reception children can do singing club, arts and crafts club, and multi-sports. There are only limited spaces available and children may not get a place every half term if they are oversubscribed. Generally they cost £2 a week, payable half termly. 

Another option is to use a childminder, which is something we have done in the past. This has the benefit that children will be in a smaller group and may have more time to relax if they are tired (the after school club is always very rambunctious, although a quieter chill out area is available). The negative is that a childminder may not be as reliable if they are ill, or if they have their own children that are unwell, and they may also not offer holiday childcare or alternatively, charge half fees or full fees over holiday periods even if you don't want to use their services. 

You could also hire a nanny, or au pair, but this is obviously a more expensive option - if you can find another family who wants similar childcare a nanny share could work well. 

In any case, as a working parent it is worth having back up options for emergencies - if your child is unwell and the school can't get through to you or your partner, if you get stuck in traffic or on public transport etc...there have been a few times where I have had to call a local mum friend and ask if they could help. 

How are we going to cope with school holidays?

This was our biggest issue! I literally felt like my head might explode trying to get holidays sorted out the first time I had to do it. If you have a regular childminder they may offer holiday care too, but this can add up to be quite expensive as it's quite a lot of additional hours. There are also holiday clubs available - some are more flexible than others in terms of hours and age ranges and the activities available. We alternate between a holiday club local to my work, and one local to home. Some clubs only cover the major holidays and don't cater for half terms. Our school also regularly run a sports academy, but this only covers school hours. The same tends to be the case for local authority arranged activities, which tend to be a lot cheaper than other options but will finish by 3.30 or only run over half days. If you know other local parents using the same childcare or holiday camp then you can often work out a pickup sharing arrangements/after camp playdates which can help.

So it really comes down to how flexible your work is, whether you want to use some annual leave, and what location/activity type you are after. And budget of course!

What time do I need to get M up in the morning?

We get up at 7. I try and get uniform, book bags etc ready the night before (the kids each have their own 'morning box' that I out everything in for each of them) so that they can get up, have breakfast and then get changed, then having a bit of time to chill out or read their school books before we have to leave. It's useful to have that time built in for the inevitable 'where did your shoes disappear to overnight' or 'why didn't I know it was non-school uniform day' or 'how did I only just find this letter that says you need three cardboard boxes and a red t-shirt today' kind of panics. In the early days having a good amount of time built in to dawdle on the way can be good too, being relaxed rather than in a rush can avoid tantrums and refusing to get dressed and general 'planking'. 

What happens if we are late for school?

You have to go through the 'late gate' - it's a walk of shame! A member of school staff stands with a clipboard at the entrance to the office, asks your child's name and the reason why you are late, and also what they would like for lunch - the hot or cold menu, or they may have brought a packed lunch with them. Children are then escorted by a member of staff to their classroom. 

Is there really a playground mafia/ rivalry between school mum's at the gate?

Yes and no... many parents will already have older children in the school, so they know each other and can sometimes be a bit difficult to get talking to. It's not necessary cliqueyness, just a matter of lack of time and forgetfulness about what it's like not to know anyone. There is also often the family element involved - in our area there are a lot of people who have grown up in the area and have extended family all with kids in the same school. 

And of course, there are always people with different opinions to yours, especially in regard to things like school uniform (I was amazed when one mum said she would never send her child to school in a polo shirt with marks on it - said whilst looking pointedly at my child. Cleanliness, yes that is important, but if I was to always send the kids in wearing pristine unmarked shirts then 1. They'd be constantly in fear of doing anything fun because of the ensuing wrath and 2. I'd be having to buy new shirts every week). I can't say I've experienced much in the way of 'my child is doing better than yours' but then, I don't get the opportunity to chat to the other parents so much because I don't pick the kids up...which brings me to:

Working mum vs stay at home mum.

And I guess that's the biggest issue. 

As a working mum, I don't ever hang around to get the opportunity to talk to other parents. I have to dash off as soon as I've dropped them off in the morning, and I'm not there to pick them up after school. I know a lot of the mums will wander up the road for coffee once they've done the drop off, and many of them have younger children and will go to a library of children's centre group together too. As a working mum you can miss a lot of the rivalry and the gossip - but it can feel quite isolated as well. There are occasionally evening events organised by the PTA but I've never worked up the courage to get to one of them yet...

What else do I need to know about being a "school mum"?

It is very different to being any other kind of mum you have been before. Before school, things are a lot more flexible. Once kids start school, everything has to revolve around the school routine. Family breaks are in the school holidays - and all your annual leave goes on school holiday times too if you are a working mum. The school will call you for things that a nursery wouldn't - if for example, your child has an 'accident' they will call you and expect you, or someone you send on your behalf, to come and clean your child up. Events will constantly be scheduled, but not always with any more than a day or two of notice...plays, sports days, trips, open 'evenings'(usually 3.30-6), fetes, book fairs, random playground stalls...and with those come the constant regular demands for money. Not necessarily big money, but the odd £3 or £4 in exact change and sealed named envelope (stock up on change and envelopes!). 
You also get far less feedback about what your child has been up to - basically you only know what thy tell you. There is no daily report. At our school Reception children do get updates posted on a programme called

'Tapestry' and that can give you a really lovely insight into a bit of what they've been doing, and each class has started up their own blog too, but it's still very different to what you'd get at nursery or preschool. A lot of school stuff will remain a complete mystery, and your children will come home talking about things and you will have absolutely no idea what it all means!

But there will also be moments of proudness and joy when your child suddenly pipes up with something that you didn't even know they knew, or when they read out a word on the side of a bus for the first time, or they talk animatedly non-stop at the dinner table about something amazing they've learnt, or when they walk past random other five year olds on the street and high five them with a smile - and you realise they are learning and growing so much, without you even being there.

Part 1- What do you need to get?
Part 3 - Advice from other mums

Monday, 13 June 2016

Getting Ready for School - Part 1 What do you need to get?

With M starting school in September I realised I needed some help to get ready so I asked Lauren from Mummy is a Gadget Geek for help. Mum of 3 Lauren's oldest is in Year 2 and her middliest just completing reception. Over the course of 2 blog posts she answers my questions on everything from when and where to buy uniform to how to get M ready for school, what happens if you are late for school and things to consider as a working mum. Handily Lauren's children go to the school M will be starting in September, but as most schools operate in the same way I think her advice and tips will help anyone who is about to become a school mum/ dad.

When do you buy uniform/shoes ?

In my experience, for generic uniform bits you should buy it as soon as you see it. Supermarkets tend do put it out early in the summer holidays and the popular sizes (age 4-7) seem to sell really quickly. If you want to buy specific logo items, you can wait til the last minute as reception children often start later than everyone else - going into the uniform shop once everyone else is already in school will make for a much quieter, pleasant experience. Alternatively, make sure you book an appointment with the uniform shop if you want to go earlier. In terms of summer uniform, it's worth looking out bargains in the sales this summer to put by for the summer term next year. 

Shoes are trickier as kid's feet can sometimes grow quickly, if you get them too early they might not fit but leaving it too late means potentially very little choice and a stressful day in a shoe shop. We tend to get them measured the third week in August and then order online. Booking an appointment with whichever shoe shop you are using can also work well. Additionally, I buy a pair of cheaper backup black shoes because inevitably at some point they will lose them / get them soaking wet / step in something filthy. 

What uniform do you need to buy?

The school will give a list, but generally speaking:

7 polo shirts, 5 pinafore dresses/skirts or trousers,  5 cardigans, sweatshirts or jumpers, 10 pairs of matching socks (if you get a lot in one go then when some inevitably go missing at least you still have a lot of pairs left. Otherwise even really plain grey or white socks can irritatingly be very different when you buy more - longer or made from different material so they don't quite match!). 5 pairs of tights for girls. Basically, enough uniform for a week without needing to wash anything, although you can get away with slightly less if you want to. 

Summer uniform is summer dresses (3-5 of those) or shorts (3 pairs) - summer uniforms don't get used as much so if you buy a size up you can use them for two years (make sure you get adjustable waist shorts though). It may also be worth getting a couple of extra polo shirts for boys, as once they don't have a jumper covering them up they get dirty a lot more quickly. 

PE kit in most schools tends to be a pair of sports shorts, a t shirt (yellow for our school, which is different to the school uniform colour) and plimsolls. You can also choose to provide trainers and jogging bottoms for outdoor PE in the colder weather if you want but that is not compulsory.
A image of school uniform for a boy and girl ready to wear on a bed with the caption "starting school soon? What to get for your child"

What about coats/ hair bands do they need to be school coloured? 

Coats and hair bands for our school don't need to be school colours, and in fact having a unique coat can really help you to pick out your child in a crowded playground. D always stands out in her 'space coat'! Hairbands in the school colour are popular and easy to come by, but as long as hair is tied back (and be prepared for regular 'nits letters' emphasising this) the school aren't too fussed what colour you use. 

Anything else they need? Eg stationary/ name tags

Our school provides all stationary and equipment. You will need to get:
A book bag in the school colour
A school PE bag
A water bottle for your child to use for drinks during the day

Our school sells all of these from the school office, you can go at any point during school hours and ask to buy them (which means you need to get them before the school closes for the holidays, something I didn't realise first time round). 
Sports Day c
Sports Day

How much does that all cost?

From memory it's £5 for the book bag, £3.50 for the PE bag, and £1 for the water bottle. You can also choose to get generic ones in the school colours from elsewhere if you want (the water bottle can be any colour) but to be honest I think they are pretty reasonably priced from the school anyway. 

Uniforms vary massively in price dependent on where you decide to buy them. The official logo tops - polo shirts, sweatshirts, cardigans and PE t shirt - can be bought from the local school uniform shop and are fairly expensive (I think the sweater was about £13...). We have just one logo top for each child, for first day and school photo type occasions! They also tend to go 'missing' a bit more often too as they are more covetable. The PE kit is more reasonably priced at about £3.50 an item. (We get plimsolls from Sainsburys though, they are very cheap and fit well).

Most supermarkets and large high street clothing or department stores will also sell uniform in the generic few colours. We get trousers, dresses and skirts from M&S, Next or Sainsburys as they last well and wash easily (somewhere between £6 and £9 each). You can get them a bit cheaper elsewhere but as the kids tend to wear them til they outgrow them I like to make sure they are good quality. Dresses with zips rather than buttons seem to work better for reception age, and trousers with an easy close metal tab rather than buttons are good too. And adjustable waists for skirts and trousers! 

Polo shirts we get from ALDI when they have them in, otherwise Tesco or Sainsburys - all very cheap although ALDI wins with 2 shirts for £1.50 I think! The best we've found for sweatshirts and cardigans is Sainsburys (2 for £4), although when I've not been able to get the right size there we get them from Next (£6 for 1). Socks and tights are from Tesco or Sainsburys and work out about £1 a pair. 

Summer dresses we get from whichever supermarket I see them in (usually around £4), and shorts from ALDI (£3 I think?). The main criteria now for dresses is apparently what charm is hanging off the zipper (D loves the ones with hearts or butterflies). 

Also, invest in an easy method of putting your child's name in all this stuff. We use Stamptastic which is quick and easy and has saved us a lot of money in misplaced-but-returned uniform!

Part 2 - Getting me and my child ready
Part 3 - Advice from other mums 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

#MySundayPhoto Sleep

The theme of the last week has definitely been sleep, or lack of it. Little is going through the 4 month sleep regression so we have all been getting less sleep. It's affecting how easily she will get to sleep, staying as asleep and naps. I've been going to bed early to get all the sleep I can and doing anything other than look after the girls and trying to sleep has taken the back seat. Friday night she woke up every few hours, but last night she slept brilliantly with only one wake up in 12 hours. Slightly less caffeine needed this morning.

Last week we bought new duvet covers (my 'thing' for white continues), I just wish I was getting to spend more time in it.